I received this book from NetGalley on exchange for an honest review.
I loved Wild Place. I loved The Wife and the Widow by Christian White but this book surpassed the sheer creative power that White showed in The Wife and the Widow.
Wild Place centres around the disappearance of a teenage girl from a seemingly perfect Australian suburb in 1989. It begins deceptively simply, but soon draws in so many different characters, all connected in one way: they lived in the suburb and they had varying connections to the missing girl.
I read this as an E-ARC, and I highlighted so many sections that at one point my kindle rebooted itself. There are so many quirky 80s references, funny one liners and witticisms it was easy to forget the crux of this was the disappearance of a teenage girl, and then White would ratchet the tension up and you’d be thrown back into the high stakes mystery with your head reeling. This yo-yoing of tension made the tension all the more delightful. You'd forget you were reading about a horrible disappearance as the main character cracks silly jokes with his son for a line or two but then his son would ask about the missing girl and you'd be jerked back into the fear of the unknown.
With the addition of a callback to the Satanic Panic of the 80s and too many twists and turns to count, I read this entire book in one 6 hour sitting and then immediately picked up my iPad to write this review.
Every single character served an intricate purpose in the plot, nothing is wasted, every single word counts.
If I had one criticism I would say that at the halfway point 2 characters make a decision that derails things and I did wonder if the plot would get back on track, but it did and that plot choice led to several “what the f*ck?!” Plot twists that made me love this book. Christian White is the new master of books that make you gasp right until the very last line.
Our main character Tom Witter, is a high school english teacher who has Tourette's syndrome which show itself as facial twitches and tics, which led to him being bullied in high school and given the nickname Twitchy.
Other characters include Tom's neighbours, some of whom are laidback and funny (and maybe drink a bit too much!) and some who are the archetypal nosy neighbour, who run the local crime watch and want to have neighbourhood meetings at the merest hint of trouble.
The way Christian White describes Wild Place (a large swathe of bushland/park in which the kids of the neighbourhood explore, play and use as a shortcut to and from school is so evocative you begin to think of Wild Place as its own character.